The Kincaids are said to descend from the ancient Earls of Lennox, the Galbraiths of Buthernock, the Grahames and the Comyn Lords of Badenoch. Their name appears to be territorial in origin, but its derivation is uncertain. One explanation is that it comes from the Gaelic, ‘ceann cadha’, the ‘steep place’ or ‘pass’. A second translation may be ‘of the head of the rock’, and a third possibility is, ‘the head of the battle,’ which could refer to a later achievement in the family history.

An early reference to the name is found in 1238, when Alexander III granted the lands of the Kincade to Maldouen, third Earl of Lennox, who in the same year granted the lands to Sir William Galbraith, the fourth chief of that name. The Galbraiths’ principal castle was originally Craigmaddie, but when the line ended in three sisters the estate was partitioned. In 1280, one of the sisters married a Logan, and they obtained confirmation of the lands of Kyncade by a charter from the fourth Earl of Lennox, and the family took their surname from the property. The Kyncade lands (now with a new spelling) extended from the River Glazert to the River Kelvin and were thought originally to consist of thirty thousand acres.

Although Kincaids have not made a great mark in Scottish history, one member of the family distinguished himself by gallant conduct against the English forces of Edward I, and in his valiant services in the successful recapture of Edinburgh Castle in 1296. The then Laird of Kincaid was made constable of Edinburgh Castle, an office he held until around 1314. It was during the reign of Robert the Bruce that the castle on the Kincaid shield was granted as an honourable augmentation to his armorial bearings as a reference to his feat.

When the Kincaids obtained their lands at the end of the thirteenth century they would have erected a tower or peel. There is no trace of this building today, but a house was built around 1690, enlarged in the mid eighteenth century and rebuilt in 1812.

From the late sixteenth century onwards, the family increased their landholdings in the east of the country. Firstly, as a result of an advantageous marriage, the Kincaids gained the estate of Craiglockhart near Edinburgh. In due course they added to this the estate of Bantaskin near Falkirk, the grim Blackness Castle near Linlithgow and the fields of Warriston, now a suburb of Edinburgh. Malcolm Kincaid, who lost his left arm in a clan skirmish in 1563, was actively engaged in a feud in the 1570s with the Lennoxes of Woodhead. The luckless Malcolm was killed by a Stirling of Glovat in 1581. Some historians have commented that the feud with the Lennoxes is made remarkable by the fact that it was later by marriage to that very family that the Kincaid name was carried on to be re-established as an independent clan in the twentieth century. John Kincaid of Warriston was murdered in 1600 by one of his grooms who was in league with his wife. The conspiracy was detected and the groom forced to confess. The couple both suffered the ultimate penalty for their crime but, although the Lady of Warriston was beheaded in deference to her rank, the hapless groom was ‘broken on the wheel’.

The Kincaids fought on the royalist side in the civil wars of the seventeeth century, campaigning largely in Ireland. The family suffered considerable hardship as a result of its adherence to the royal cause, and many of the name emigrated to North America. The family were later supporters of the Stuart cause in exile, and following the rising in 1715 David Kincaid was obliged to leave Scotland, ultimately settling in Virginia. In 1746 four sons of Alexander Kincaid, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, and the King’s Printer, fought a rearguard action after Culloden, but were ultimately taken prisoner and their doom seemed certain. However, they escaped and took ship for America, and they, too, settled in Virginia. At the end of the eighteenth century the principal line of the Kincaids married into the Lennox family and for most of the next two centuries the names were virtually synonymous. The Kincaids have now re-established themselves as an independent family and the late Madam Heather Kincaid of Kincaid was the first chief of the name to sit on the Council of Chiefs. She was succeeded in 2001 by her granddaughter, Arabella.

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